We like to ensure that our travel days are holidays as well, so we look for interesting things on, or near, our route. At the NE corner of the Adriatic, in Italy, we found 3 little gems.
Firstly, the Riserva naturale della Foce dell’Isonzo is a bird reserve where a 2km walk took us past summer breeding scrapes, and wetlands where wintering birds were starting to arrive. We have also never had such great views of snipe, and, bizarrely, Carmargue ponies!
Then, the drive to the pretty town of Grado, and across the causeway, waving a sad goodbye to the azure sea. The next seawater we encounter will be the colder, and greyer, English channel!
Just north of Grado is Aquileia! This was once the Roman regional capital, and main trading port, long before Venice existed. They are still uncovering ruins, revealing remains of a huge city. They are only ground level ruins, but a short walk revealed the site of the forum, and the vast remains of the Roman wharves, dock ramps and warehouses.
Best of all is the church, or Basilica, which was built in 1031 on the site of an early Romano christian church . Bishop Poppo, in 1031, had a red tiled floor laid over the original 4th century floor. That has been uncovered and is stunning! It is the largest paleo christian mosaic floor in the world. The detail is remarkable.
But look up too. The intricate wooden carved ceiling is 15th century!
The basilica had another treasure – the crypt of frescoes. More stunning wall and ceiling frescoes, painted in the 12th century, preserved because they are away from light.
Really worth a visit, and it set us up for our long journey north into Austria.
Being us, we don’t do things the easy way. We chose to go due north, taking the less used route over the beautiful Carnic Alps. Autumn colours were everywhere. Gorgeous.
Having reached Austria, we decided to take the route over the Gross Glockner pass, as it was a glorious day. Be warned. This is not for the faint hearted, nor a dodgy vehicle. You climb, and descend, steeply up to 9000 feet, with 38 hair pin bends! Just short of the highest point, Boris appeared to give a little hiccough. We had visions of spending the night up thete, but thankfully a few minutes rest to cool down and he was fine. Stunning, if bleak views from the top!
Then down to the glorious scenery of the lake at Zell am See, and the luxury of the Seeland campsite, which had a super restaurant – I had the best fresh trout I have ever eaten, while Chris went for a meatier option! Then the luxury of hot showers, with underfloor heating!
Next morning, we walked around the Lake to the town. Our amazing luck with the weather continues!
Zell am See is in the very traditional Tyrol, so no shops open on Sunday. St Hippolyte church was built in 1514, and is worth a visit.
Then we set off on our long drive through Austria to Switzerland. To use motorways and some other main roads you need a Vignette. Austria do a 10 day pass, costing 9 euros, for vehicles under 3.5tons, like Boris!
Beautiful scenery all the way.